Simplify Concentric Circle Games

My classroom is rather spacious, but pull out the risers and a few instruments and suddenly the movement space dwindles. Here are a few ideas for implementing exciting lessons in small spaces.

Tideo and John Kanaka both have concentric circles as part of the game formation. However, I teach Tideo in second grade because of the takadimi tadi tadi ta pattern. Teaching young students to play in concentric circles takes more time than I’m willing to spend, so I simplify.

tideo_lyrics_CSimplified version: Scattered partners. Students play the clapping portion (patsch, clap, partner clap) each time they sing Tideo, and they add a dishrag during the last “jingle at the window, tideo.” When I’m ready to teach high do’ (fourth grade), the song comes back into circulation, but the game will be played in concentric circles. All students move one step to the left at the beginning of phrases one through three (on the word ‘pass’), performing the clapping pattern on all ‘tideo’ words. Students then stay with that partner and trade places on the first and second ‘jingle at the window.’ On the third ‘jingle at the window,’ students end the song with a dishrag.

Note: If there are chairs and desks in the way and there’s not enough room for the whole class to play in concentric circles, why not divide the group into two or three sections? Can you find two or three smaller places in the room for eight to ten students to play? This tactic works well with passing games, too. If one or two people make mistakes in the game, the whole class isn’t involved. The teacher can focus attention on the group that struggles and allow the rest of the class to continue practicing and playing.

John Kanaka is similar to Tideo. Rather than beginning with concentric circles, why not teach the game with scattered partners first? Students work with their partner until the high do’ in phrase five, then move to a new partner. In my class, I encourage students to find a partner within one step of their current position. If no one nearby is available, they raise their hand and walk to someone else with their hand up. It works remarkably well. I usually teach this game at the end of 3rd grade or early in 4th grade. By changing the game slightly and increasing the difficulty level, older learners don’t get bored. It’s also important to use well-known songs to prepare or practice known concepts and these songs are little treasures!

Look for reading examples of each of these songs under Resources for Teachers.john_kanaka_F_lyrics

Fun ways to practice rhythm

Need fun ways for your students to demonstrate what they know? Try Musical Post Office, Meeting on the Street, or using your mascot as a rhythm eater.

At the beginning of the year, I try to ease my students through reviewing concepts while assessing new students. Playing Musical Post Office allows me to check their understanding of rhythms. (Click the link for examples with quarter notes, eighth notes, and quarter rest.)

Each student receives an envelope with the same rhythm cards in it. I clap a four-beat pattern and they clap it back. Repeat. Usually I ask the students to say the rhythm for the first few examples, and then hold the card at their forehead so I can quickly assess everyone. If I feel everyone understands, I’ll clap a few examples and ask them to silently find the card. Students put each used card in the envelope.

Meeting on the Street is a musical activity that fits the Tribes philosophy on my campus. Every student receives one finger cymbal. While the music plays, students mill to the music and “ding” finger cymbals with classmates. They hide it in their hands when the music stops and listen for a prompt. Students are given a question or topic and have a few seconds to discuss it with someone near them. Questions might include: 1. Talk about one special thing you did this summer, 2. Name your favorite music game from last year, 3. Can you name any rhythms we studied last year, 4. Do you have any pets, 5. Which solfége syllables do you remember? Each time the music resumes, students should stop talking and let their finger cymbals do the talking.

Our school mascot is a gecko. I tell the students we have a special Rhythm Gecko that only eats rhythms. He just had surgery (I cut a paper gecko in half!) and they need to nurse him back to health with good food. In small groups, students create 4-beat rhythm patterns (I provide small rhythm cards that we tape together) and feed them to the gecko one group at a time. To really play this up, the groups can give him a drink, salad, soup, bread, entrée, dessert, and after-dinner mint. Once all the rhythms have been presented to the gecko, the class has to clap the entire menu. They’re often surprised by this and laugh or groan, but they always play along. Yes, even fifth graders have fun with this! At the end of class, they take the gecko back to class to hang up as an artifact. Sometimes I still see the geckos in their rooms in May!

What creative ways have you used to practice rhythm concepts?